THE chief executive of East Staffordshire Citizens Advice Bureau is calling for a ‘root and branch reform’ of Government fit for work tests that would grant free health tests to applicants.
Dawn Green says that the cost of getting medical evidence to support a claim is ‘the latest in a depressing line of obstacles’ that people with disabilities face when claiming benefits. Research published by Citizens Advice shows that half of GP surgeries charge a fee when providing people with medical records for Work Capability Assessments (WCA).
The WCA has already been criticised for unreliable assessments, expensive appeals procedures and long waits for applicants. Research conducted by the CAB also revealed that 15 per cent of surgeries turn out requests from all patients for evidence, while half charge for providing documentation. 61 per cent charge for a payment of between £10 and £50 for providing medical evidence.
Mrs Green said: “East Staffordshire CAB works closely with doctors in East Staffordshire, including the East Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group to help our clients cope with ESA appeals and the health problems which too often go hand-in-hand with the challenge of making ends meet.
“We all want to see people get the support they need but at the moment, charges which are unaffordable for many people are adding a big burden. The results of our survey should be an alarm bell for everyone involved in helping people with sickness and disability to live independently. If doctors are unable to provide help due to a shortage of time or resources then Government needs to step in and make sure the system works.”
Burton MP Andrew Griffiths has also shown his support for the campaign and said that he is currently trying to start a debate on reforming fit for work assessments in Parliament. He told the Mail: “It’s only right that people claiming benefits go through regulation checks to ensure they get what they are entitled to.
“I am very concerned that some disabled and vulnerable people have to pay £100 for a doctor’s letter that gives them access to the benefits they are entitled to. I agree that we need to reform the system so that people are not being charged just for a letter. I will keep raising the issue in Parliament.”